How Much Does a Tugboat Captain Earn?

Tugboat captains have the potential to earn high incomes.
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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects excellent job opportunities for workers in water transportation, including those who operate tugboats. Tugboat captains work in ocean coastlines, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals and harbors, towing larger vessels and helping them maneuver. Most tugboat captains earned at least $20 per hour as of 2010.

Salary Range

Tugboat captains earn a good living with the top ten percent earning more than $56.24 per hour.
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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes tugboat captains in its category of captains, mates and pilots of water vessels. These professionals command the operations of ships and other water vessels and may supervise workers. Their average salary as of May 2010 was $33.89 per hour, or $70,500 per year. The middle 50 percent of tugboat captins were making $20.52 to $44.11 per hour, or $42,690 to $91,750 per year. The bottom 10 percent had salaries of $30,690 per year and less, and the top 10 percent were earning $56.40 per hour and higher, or more than $117,000 per year.

Types of Employment

The amount a tugboat captain earns depends on the type of employment.
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The amount a tugboat captain earns depends partly on the type of employment. Those working in inland water transportation were making $32.51 per hour on average as of 2010, or $67,630 per year. Tugboat captains in deep sea, coastal and Great Lakes water transportation had an average salary of $72,560, and in the category the bureau defines as support activities for water transportation, $82,800 per year.

High Employment Areas

Louisiana was the state with the highest employment level.
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Louisiana was the state with the highest employment level in this occupational category as of May 2010, and also had the highest concentration of these workers per capita. The estimated 7,440 captains, mates and pilots of water vessels in Louisiana had an average salary of $37.03 per hour, or $77,020 per year. By metropolitan area, the highest employment level and largest concentration of these workers per capita was in the Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux area of Louisiana, where around 2,920 of them were employed and making $39.52 per hour on average, or $82,200 per year. The New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner region ranked second, and these workers in that metro area had an average salary of $73,080 per year. High concentrations of captains, mates and pilots of water vessels also worked in Lafayette, earning an average salary of $58,550 per year, and in Lake Charles, with an average annual salary of $70,410.

Top-Paying Areas

The top-paying area for tugboat captains in 2010 was also Louisiana.
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The top-paying metro area for tugboat captains in 2010 also was in Louisiana. That was the Shreveport-Bossier City area, where captains of water vessels were making $50.80 per hour on average, or $105,660 per year. The top-paying states were Tennessee, at an average annual salary of $89,700, Alabama at $85,390, Texas at $84,880, Missouri at $83,170, and Delaware at $81,540.

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